It’s stunning for me to realize: Today is a great day in American history.
I can recall plenty of dark days. September 11th and Hurricane Katrina come immediately to mind. But I’ve been racking my mind to come up with a day on which I felt a sense of pride like today.
Can’t think of one.
Funny thing about pride. It seems to come in at least a couple of different flavors. There’s a belligerent kind of pride, a swaggering boastful emotion. But there’s also a quiet kind, which seems to carry with it an overwhelming sense of humility. That seems paradoxical to me. But anyway it’s that latter kind of pride I’m feeling today. It’s not about me, it’s nothing I’ve earned, but I feel grateful and happy to be a part of it all the same.
And I can’t remember the last time I felt this way.
I’m proud for my country, and that’s such a strange feeling for me. Also strange: I’m proud of my generation. I don’t think I’ve ever really had these feelings before, and they’re kind of taking me by surprise. I’m kind of getting choked up.
And I’m also feeling hopeful. But it’s a highly qualified sense of hope. There’s a reason for that.
Reagan. Bush. Clinton. Bush again. Those are the presidents I have known as an adult, and I really haven’t been happy with any of them. There was a time, from roughly the election of ’92 to Clinton’s inauguration, when I felt this sense of hope. Once Clinton actually got into office, however, I was quickly disappointed.
Having been fooled once, I’m more cautious now. I’m also sixteen years older and commensurately sadder — I won’t say wiser. My expectations have been sorely diminished. Even so, all these years of disappointment have taught me to keep my hopes under wrap.
I characterized my take on our prospects in New Orleans after Katrina as “tightly bridled optimism.” I’m sure I’m not the first person to coin that phrase, but you wouldn’t know it from searching Google. Maybe I should trademark it, because I’ve come to realize it’s my signature emotion.
And, for sure, it’s what I’m feeling today. Optimistic, yes, but not uncritically so. I can’t let loose, can’t let my guard down entirely, not even today. My skepticism and pessimism are too deeply held.
I am more hopeful for our future than at any time in my adult life, but that’s not saying much. Or maybe it is. I don’t even know anymore.
Still, a great day in American history. I’m profoundly glad to see this day.